“It’s beautiful and deadly,” Daemon replied. “She’ll love it.” He closed the box and returned it to Rainier before offering the man a brandy.

Something was wrong here. Very wrong.

Rainier had been a dance instructor for years. Hell’s fire, he’d been Jaenelle’s dance instructor—a young Warlord Prince who had been able to hold his own with Jaenelle and the coven of young Queens who had been her closest friends.

Now Rainier worked for him, and he paid the man a generous salary. But he recognized Banard’s work. The jeweler made some pieces that wouldn’t beggar an ordinary man’s pocket for a year, but that custom-made gauntlet wasn’t one of them.

What was Rainier trying to prove?

“What are your plans for Winsol?” Daemon asked.

“I’m going to Dharo to spend some time with my family,” Rainier replied, his smile looking sicker than before.

Why? Daemon wondered. They usually prefer that you keep your distance. Hadn’t Rainier made a family visit a few weeks ago? Right around the time when something began to go wrong with the healing of his leg?

“Unless there’s something you need from me,” Rainier added.

“No, I don’t—” A thought occurred to him, and he didn’t think he’d get an honest answer without inflicting some pain. So he would inflict the pain.

“It’s come to my attention that there is a traditional Winsol dance. It would be prudent for me to learn it.”

“Don’t look to me to teach you,” Rainier said. “I’m crippled.”

At least he didn’t have to dig for the bitterness festering inside the other Warlord Prince.

“And who do you blame for that, Rainier?” Daemon asked too softly, leaning back and steepling his fingers again.

“I don’t blame anyone,” Rainier snapped. “It happened.”

“Yes, it happened, because you did what you were supposed to do—defend and protect.”

“Not well enough. Three children died and Surreal got poisoned. I didn’t protect them well enough, and I lost . . .” He swallowed, obviously fighting not to say more. “I was a dancer. It’s all I’ve ever been. All I wanted to be. I’ll never be that again.”

“Are you sure?” Daemon asked.

“Yes, I’m sure!”

Daemon hesitated, but it had to be said. “Everything has a price, Prince Rainier. An escort’s life is always on the line.”

“I know that.”

“Do you? You were wounded in battle. It doesn’t matter what the battleground looked like; that’s the truth of it. You’re not the first man who’s had to rebuild his life because of battle scars.You won’t be the last.” Knowing that he wasn’t getting through to the man, Daemon unleashed some of his own frustration. “You could have lost your leg instead of losing some mobility. Hell’s fire, Rainier, you could have died in that place.”

“Maybe it would have been better if I had,” Rainier said softly.

Daemon felt his temper rise from the depth of his Black Jewel—sweet, cold, and deadly. Rainier wasn’t stupid. He knew who would be waiting for him if he got maudlin enough to commit suicide. The boy thought he had troubles now? Wait until Saetan got done explaining things to the fool—especially a fool who had helped himself become demon-dead sooner than he should have.

But it might explain Rainier buying a gift he really couldn’t afford. And Lucivar needed to be aware of that possibility.

“What’s the state of your finances?” Daemon asked.

Rainier blinked. Then color stained his cheeks. “Frankly, Prince Sadi, that’s none of your business.”

“I just made it my business. Do you want to find out how fast I can acquire every scrap of private information about you, or are you going to answer the question?”

Rainier squirmed. “I’m doing all right. I have some savings.”

“Your salary will continue, paid quarterly as usual,” Daemon said.

“For what?” Rainier let out a pained laugh. “There’s not much I can do.”

“I have some thoughts about that, but right now you can make some effort to heal.” Daemon put enough ice in his voice to have Rainier’s eyes fill with wariness. “I’ll take care of the rent on your apartment in Amdarh, as well as any other necessary expenses like food.”

“I don’t need your charity, and I don’t want your pity,” Rainier snapped.

“You’re not getting either, so shut up.” But it was becoming clear that someone was giving Rainier heavy doses of both, and those things could become more crippling than a damaged leg.

Daemon huffed out a sigh. “You’re going to have to come to terms with what you can do physically and what you can’t. I can’t help you with that, but I can make things easier for a while so that you can concentrate on healing. You’re a good Warlord Prince, Rainier, and a good escort. Too good to lose because you’re having trouble finding your balance.”

Another pained laugh. “That’s a good way of putting it.”

“After Winsol, you’ll be spending a few weeks in Ebon Rih with Lucivar.” And may the Darkness have mercy on you. “So I suggest you visit your family in Dharo and enjoy the festivities.”

“Am I dismissed?” Rainier asked, his voice a shade too polite.

“Yes, you’re dismissed. Happy Winsol, Rainier.”

Rainier pushed himself to his feet, then leaned on the cane. “Happy Winsol, Prince.”

Daemon suspected that he and Rainier were both wishing each other a lot of things at that moment, and “happy” wasn’t one of them.

He waited until he was sure he’d given Rainier enough time to leave the Hall. Then he left his study—and didn’t have to go far, since Beale was waiting for him.

“Lady Karla requests your presence,” Beale said.

He’d known when the Queen of Glacia had arrived. It was hard to miss that particular psychic scent—and hard to miss the presence of a Gray-Jeweled witch in his home.

“She’s waiting for you in her suite,” Beale added.

“And Lady Angelline?”

“The Lady has gone to the Keep. She intends to be back in time for dinner, but said if she was late, you should start without her.”

Not likely, but he didn’t need to say it, since it was already understood by the household staff.

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